THERE are numerous theories about why Scottish football has suffered such a decline in the past 20 to 30 years.

Many suspect the teachers’ strike of the 1980s is to blame. Others believe the influx of foreign imports is responsible. A lot of people are convinced the explosion in use of PlayStations and XBoxes has resulted in fewer talented youngsters emerging.

I myself have long felt there is another factor that has been overlooked and merits investigation by the SFA. The mullet is not the hairstyle of choice for our top ‘ballers any more. M’lud, the evidence is incontrovertible.

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There was once a glorious time when no self-respecting Scottish professional would consider taking to the field without a bi-level barnet. Alas, those days are past now.

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Has this country produced a striker with the flair of Charlie Nicholas since its popularity waned? Or a box-to-box midfielder with the tenacity of Stuart McCall? Or a centre half with the passion of Colin Hendry? We have not.

Is it just a coincidence that Nicholas, McCall and Hendry all sported mullets? Was their power, like Samson in the Old Testament, contained within their magnificent flowing locks? Their brilliance and their coiffures were surely inextricably linked.  

Further afield, would Roberto Baggio (pre-divine ponytail), Paul Mariner, Rudi Voller and Chris Waddle have excelled without Tennessee Tophats? It is inconceivable. 

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That the short-long do has fallen out of fashion is surprising as well as desperately sad. For it is not, contrary to popular belief, a 1970s innovation. It has been around for millennia. 

In The Iliad, written in the 8th Century BC by the Greek poet Homer, a group of spearmen called The Abantes are described as having “their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the backs”. 

It was still going strong hundreds of years later. A metal figurine which was unearthed during the construction of a car park on the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire in 2018 proved as much. After examining a find which dated back to the 1st Century AD, archeologists concluded that ancient Britons wore mullets.

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Apparently, there were many advantages for warriors of yore; their helmets fitted better, their necks remained warm, they were harder to grab during battle and they avoided the inconvenience of a stray strand of hair falling into their eyes just as they were about to hack someone to death. 

The Huns certainly favoured mullets for those reasons as they raped, pillaged and massacred their way around Eastern Europe and Central Asia between the 4th and 6th Century BC.

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The distinctive style of the Roman Empire’s feared enemies was copied in Rome by gangs of anti-social young hooligans (think The Green Brigade in togas and sandals) who attended chariot races. It became known as “the Hun cut” or “the Hunnic look”.

There is a point to all of this frivolous nonsense and historical trivia. The appointment of Austin MacPhee to the Scotland backroom team means the Hun cut is, at long last, back in our game. Glory be! Truly, there is hope for the future.

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All joking aside, the presence of MacPhee and his mullet on the training pitch at Oriam this week and in the dugout at Hampden during the Qatar 2022 qualifier against Israel on Saturday will do far more than evoke memories of a bygone era for supporters of a certain vintage.

An innovative and intelligent coach with vast experience of the international scene – he spent seven years with Northern Ireland and helped Michael O’Neill’s men to reach the last 16 of Euro 2016 – he is an important and timely addition to Steve Clarke’s staff.

The Fifer has been brought in to be a set-piece specialist, a role which he now performs at Aston Villa. He has made a significant impact down in the West Midlands in a short space of time. The Birmingham club’s goals in their Premier League wins over Newcastle United, Everton and Manchester United this season have all come from dead ball situations.

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Scotland’s displays in the Group F matches against Moldova in Glasgow and Austria in Vienna last month were impressive. But the back-to-back victories were only secured by narrow 1-0 scorelines. Converting chances is a problem. Anyone who can give the national team a much-needed edge in the final third, then, is to be welcomed with open arms. Even if he does look like a roadie for Van der Graaf Generator.

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Clarke, whose side is in second spot in their section with four games remaining and in with a chance of finishing runners-up and progressing to the play-offs, is to be commended for taking action to improve a definite weakness. Hopefully there will be tangible signs of improvement up front in the double header with Israel and the Faroe Islands in the coming days and beyond.

With a bit of luck, MacPhee might give a few members of the squad a little inspiration for their next trim as well. Perhaps Lyndon Dykes, Billy Gilmour and Kieran Tierney will eschew the pompadour fade, the long wavy man bun and the mohawk in favour of the mullet. If they do, World Cup qualification will be in the bag.  

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